The idea that our deceased loved ones are looking down from Heaven to watch over us common in popular culture – but is it Biblical?
In Q&A published by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, evangelist Billy Graham contends that while the Bible doesn’t answer all our questions about Heaven, it does indicate that those who have already entered Heaven may be aware of events on earth.
“The book of Hebrews, for example, pictures life as a great arena, with those who have gone before us cheering us on in our daily spiritual struggles (see Hebrews 12:1),” he says. “Once when Jesus’ appearance was changed and His heavenly glory shone through, Moses and Elijah spoke with Him about events on the earth (see Luke 9:30-31).”
But does this mean people in Heaven are sad when evil seems to be winning the day? No, not at all, says Graham.
“For one thing, they (unlike us) see the whole picture; they know that even in the midst of life’s heartaches and trials, God is still working behind the scenes,” he explains. “They also know that Satan is a defeated foe, and someday all evil will be destroyed and Christ will rule in perfect peace and justice.”
He concludes: “The most important question about Heaven, however, is this: Are you sure you will go there when you die? You can be, by turning to Christ and committing your life to Him.”
Harvest Church pastor Greg Laurie previously shared his thoughts on the issue and explained that people in Heaven do, in fact, have knowledge of what is happening on earth.
“Let me take it a step further. I think people in heaven know a lot more about earth than we may realize,” he said.
“People in eternity are aware of the fact that loved ones are not saved. This is based on Luke 16 … In the afterlife we are the same person with real memories of earth. You will know more in heaven than you will on earth, not less. We don’t all get a collective lobotomy when we go to glory.”
When people come to believe in Jesus it’s “public knowledge in heaven,” Laurie said.
“There is joy in heaven whenever one person repents,” he said. “Whenever someone turns to God on earth they break out in applause in heaven.”
“People say that when you are in heaven you are not aware of time. We are just worshipping forever. That may sound appealing to some, but very scary to others, because you know what that sounds like? A really long church service,” said Laurie.
“Heaven is not going to be a long boring church service. There will be worship and plenty of it, but the Bible says that we are going to serve the Lord. We will be working for the Lord. So, if you have ADD don’t freak out. There’s going to be a lot for you to do. Just trust God on this,” he said.
Earlier, theologian John Piper cautioned that while the idea that saints in heaven are looking down on their loved ones below is certainly comforting, there are a few things that one should keep in mind before buying into it completely.
First, he pointed out that we don’t know to what extent saints might be allowed to see and know all that goes on on earth.
“There is at least one passage of Scripture that some writers would interpret in a way that makes it quite clear that they do know what is going on,” he said. “I think that I would not stake my life on a position on this, because I don’t know for sure.”
The Bible says that saints have been perfected in Heaven (Hebrews 12:23), so if they able to see, they will no longer view the world through old, imperfect lenses.
“[They] will see and understand and assess all things in a perfectly spiritual way that takes into account everything they need to know in order to make sense of it and to keep from making any mistakes,” he explained. “And so, they will not in the least doubt the goodness of God in what they see or the wisdom of God in what they see.”
It’s important to be remember that it can be “very dangerous for the health of our faith” to think too much about the saints above, said Piper.
“It has led many people, millions I fear, to look to the saints and to Mary in their longing for help, rather than focusing on Christ and the throne of grace that he has opened to us,” he says. “Christ is the one mediator between God and man. And the New Testament does not encourage us to make the saints or Mary into mediators as we seek God’s help.”
Ultimately, Piper said it’s important to remember that “if saints see you at all they are cheering you on to endure every hardship by encouraging you to focus on Christ.”